Sheila McKnight--->

Jamie Russell--->

Five Essential Elements of Reading
Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic Awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds -phonemes-in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work. They must understand that words are made up of speech sounds, or phonemes. According to the scientific research, children who have phonemic awareness skills are likely to have an easier time learning to read and spell than children who have few or none of these skills.

Teachers use many activities to build phonemic awareness. Below are some phonemic awareness activities all first graders could practice at home with parents.


Phoneme Blending

Children listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes, and then combine the phonemes to form a word. Then they write and read each word.

Parent: What word is /d/ /r/ /a/ /g/ ?

Child: /d/ /r/ /a/ /g/  is drag.

Parent: Now let's write the sounds in drag: /d/, write d; /r/  write r;  /a/, write a;  /g/, write g.

Parent: Now let's read the word.


Phoneme Segmentation

Children break a word into its separate sounds, saying each sound as they count it. Then they write and read the word.

Parent: How many sounds are in grab?

Child: g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds

Parent: Now let's write the sounds in


Phonics instruction teaches children the relationships between the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language. It teaches children to use these relationships to read and write words.  Knowing these relationships will help children recognize familiar words accurately and automatically, and "decode" new words. Knowledge of the alphabetic principle contributes greatly to children's ability to read words both in isolation and in connected text.

How can you help at home?

It is important to have your child practice building and writing the spelling words for the week. In order to see if they truly understand how to spell using the feature we are learning, you must have them spell other words that are not on the spelling list we send home. Each week we give two surprise words that follow the feature to see if they really understand on the spelling test.

 I also send home a word list that follows the feature being taught. Have your child practice reading these words. Your child should also come home with a copy of a decodable book. To conserve paper, I cut it out and placed it onto one sheet of paper. Please have them practice reading it. When we are studying a feature, it is not only about spelling the words but reading them in text as well.


Shared Reading

The daily literacy schedule includes a twenty-minute block for shared reading. During shared reading the teacher engages children in motivating, whole group shared experiences that focus on modeling fluent reading, then students chorally reread the same text as a group. The teacher models fluent reading and provides explicit instruction in the features of prosody (expression, stress or emphasis, pitch variations, intonation, and pausing), phrasing and rate.

Children participate in small group guided reading lessons with the teacher. They are grouped according to similar needs. Six or less are in each group.


Guided Reading

WHY have small group reading?

Small group reading allows the teacher to tailor instruction to meet individual needs. It provides opportunities for supplemental instruction and intervention. The teacher is also given a chance to closely monitor the students.

"Results showed that small groups were significantly more effective than tutoring or classroom instruction."

The National Reading Panel Report, 2-221

How can you help at home?

Your child should bring home a little reader each Monday through Thurday. Have your child read the story to you.

Ask them questions about the story.

When asking questions about what your child reads, start simple and get progressively harder.

In Bloom's Taxonomy the simplest comprehension questions are knowledge-based. They include...

Name the characters in the story.

What's the setting of the story?

When does the story happen?

Tell the ending of the story.

More difficult comprehension questions involve retelling.

Summarize what the story is about.

Who was the most important character?

What was the most important event in the story?

What happened before and after (the main event)?

Now let's move on to applying our knowledge to real life.

If you were the main character, what would you have done when _____?

If you found yourself in the story alongside this character, what would you do?

If you invited the main character to your house for a sleep over, what kinds of activities would you do together?

Who have you read about or known who has been through a similar problem as the main character?

Some samples of analysis questions might include...

What part of the story did you find the funniest? The saddest?

If you were to divide the story into parts, how would you do it? Why?

What were some things that could have happened in any place in the world?

Tell an opinion of someone in the story.

The next kind of question involves synthesis. You could ask your child to...



 Tell the story from another character's point of view.

Think of an alternative ending to the story.

Pretend you are the main character and write about a typical day in your life.

What if the story happened in China? What would change?

Lastly comes the evaluation questions.

Would you recommend this book to another person? Why or why not?

Which character do you think showed the greatest amount of integrity and why?

Who was your favorite/least character? Support your answer with reasons.

What was the author's purpose in writing this story?

In your opinion, did he achieve the purpose?